Preservation Magazine, Spring 2016

Transitions: Restored—Renwick Gallery

In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here's one from Spring 2016.

Restored interior of the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.

photo by: Ron Blunt

The Renwick Gallery was the first art gallery in the United States built expressly for that purpose.

In November 2015, the first art gallery in the United States built expressly for that purpose reopened after a two-year, $30 million restoration and renovation. Washington, D.C.’s present-day Renwick Gallery, designed by architect James Renwick Jr. and constructed between 1859 and 1874 to house the Corcoran Gallery of Art, became a home for the federal Court of Claims in 1899 after the Corcoran outgrew the building.

In 1956, Congress proposed that the Second Empire–style structure be demolished to make way for government offices. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy interceded during the early 1960s, and in 1972, the Renwick opened to the public as part of the Smithsonian Institution, housing the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s contemporary craft collection.

In 2013, the gallery closed for restoration, allowing architects and engineers Westlake Reed Leskosky and contractor Consigli Construction Co. to replace all electrical, plumbing, and fire-suppression systems and modernize the gallery spaces. They also converted all of the interior lighting to LED technology, making the Renwick one of the most energy-efficient Smithsonian buildings.

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.


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